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Dateline: Bainbridge Island, Washington, Saturday, April 28, 2018.

I write this from the woods of Bainbridge Island, off the coast near Seattle, Washington. I’m at an annual retreat called Knitting with Company, a joint venture from two of knitwear’s most refined designers and thinkers, Catherine Lowe and Julie Hoover. To elevate the tone even further, the event is sponsored by the pride of Bainbridge Island, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, one of the most magical yarn shops in the world.

I’m having a wonderful time.

Approximately 50 of the most laid-back-yet-gung-ho, curious and friendly knitters are surrounding Catherine and Julie, and Melanie Falick and me, who are here as speakers, with the love of knitting and making by hand. I’m running into friends from Instagram and from Ye Olde Bloggy Days of Yore. The latter group includes Jane from Victoria, British Columbia, who traveled here on a seaplane with a strict weight limit, yet brought two copies of Modern Daily Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide for me to sign, one for her and one for a friend. I got feedback on today’s issue of Snippets at breakfast. It’s been deeply restorative. The state of our union (knitting) is strong.

Since I knew in advance about our Shakerag Top Knitalong (aka the Ragalong? can that please be a thing?), and since it’s a perfect project for sit ’n’ chat knitting, it’s been my constant companion. I’m at the delicious moment of finishing the first and second balls and joining in the third and fourth balls. (The yarn is worked doubled for the opaque stripes, and single for the partially translucent stripes. Here’s a tip for Ragalongers: when you are knitting the single-stranded stripes, alternate between the two balls, every round, so that you use up the yarn evenly.)

Straight Talk About Sylph

I am absolutely loving knitting with Sylph (my shade is Rustle). This is no surprise, as I have knit with Sylph before. It’s also no surprise because Sylph is a strand of cashmere plied with a strand of linen, two of my favorite fiber flavors. But here’s the thing: when you are knitting with Sylph, the dominant flavor is linen. It has a crisp, light hand.

The cashmere is subtle. You have to take the cashmere on faith while you are knitting with Sylph, and trust that it will reveal itself more fully later on.

This is where a little luck came in. When packing for the trip, I looked at the weather forecast for Seattle and saw that my stay would start with sunshine and temps in the 70s, then turn to chilly temps and rain. I really did not want to be packing for two different climates, so I tried to choose sweaters and scarves that could work, with a little layering, for both situations.

My mini-version of Jet Stream, which Ina so generously knit for me, was hanging on a doorknob, and I grabbed it.

The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been true to the forecast, and my Jet Stream has been either around my neck or in my bag the whole way.

So, when curious knitters have asked me about what yarn I’m using for my Shakerag Top, I’ve been able to show them not only the crisp version that I’m knitting with, but what Sylph is like after you’ve washed and blocked it, and the cashmere has had a chance to bloom. “Here, look at my Jet Stream. This is Sylph after you wash it.” Response: [awed silence, rubbing cashmere against cheek] “No! Get out! It’s a different yarn!”

Washed Sylph is almost unrecognizable as the Sylph that was in the skein. The cashmere completely takes over. Only the lightness and swingy drape of my Jet Stream hints that there is linen in the mix.

Ina’s little Jet Stream has persuaded quite a few knitters about Sylph. Seeing (and feeling, and sighing) is believing.

If you are on the fence about Sylph, I recommend knitting up a one-skein project in it. (There are suggested patterns in the listing.) Wash it, let it get nearly dry, barely damp, and then put it in the tumble dryer for 10 minutes or so. It becomes something completely different. It becomes cashmere.

Ragalongers, Represent!

What yarn are you using for your Shakerag Top? What color? And how many of you are going to marl those double-stranded stripes?

Cast-on tip: Although the pattern instructs you to cast on with a double strand of yarn, I found it simpler to cast on with a single strand, then start double-stranding on the first round. The cast-on is a lot of stitches, and to cast them on double-stranded would have meant using 4 skeins (or ends) of Sylph simultaneously. (Here’s the method I use for casting on a large number of stitches using the long-tail cast-on, without fear of running out of yarn.) I can see absolutely no ill effects from my single-stranded cast-on.

O the Glamour

I have Ms. Melanie Falick to thank for this sneaky snap:

A little stump styling before getting on the ferry back to reality.


  • I’m going to try using a cone of Valley Yarns Colrain Lace (Merino/Tencel 50/50) for mine in natural. It is a heavy laceweight or light fingering weight. I like the drape and it has a light sheen from the tencel and I have used this yarn for a Hitofude with great success. The only thing is I will have to wind off half of it to make two balls. Anyone have any suggestions, I’m wary of affecting the twist in some way using my ball winder and letting the yarn come vertically off the top of the cone. I loved the long tail cast on tip and will try it here as well.

    • When I knit off a cone I put the cone on a paper towel holder so the yarn comes off the side without twisting. It should work for winding as well. (If the holder has a second rod on the side you can unscrew it from the bottom.) One of those paper holders for the big rolls of kids drawing paper also works. You can get those at Ikea.

      • Thanks I’ll definitely try that idea!

  • Are you wearing Alabama Chanin slacks?

    • Nope, good old Eileen Fisher.

  • love this story! thanks for sharing the tips.

  • Just returned reluctantly from the wuuuuuunderful rabbit hole of links to posts ‘re Sylph, Jet stream, Honeycomb cowls and long tail cast ons.
    Thank you. 🙂

  • I’m curious how the Jet Stream pattern was modified to make the mini version. Did she just eliminate one of the 4 sections? Or make each section shorter? And if so, how exactly did she do that? I have ordered 2 skeins of Sylph, which ads up to 619 yards as opposed to the 790 yards required in the pattern.

    • Hi … one day late to the party … thank you Kay for enlightening all of the fabulosity once again of what is SYLPH … yes yes yes … it works just fine for the JETSTREAM … let go of the handlebars of the bicycle and coast … it isn’t always about all of the yardage … but making the most of what you have!!! Sheri explained it just right. Knit on my darlings … knit on … the only successful project is a completed project that you are happy with!

      • THANK YOU Ina for your post and advice!

    • Hi Williesmom – I did the same thing – I bought 2 skeins and am working on the Jetstream – I contacted Ina about the yarn shortage issue and here is what she said to do (this is my understanding of what she said and she confirmed I had it correct):

      I was worried about not having enough yarn given what the pattern calls for and if the Jet Stream shape would look ok…
      But I think I understand what you are saying below
      Knit sections 1-3
      Knit the eyelet repeats in Section 4 – weigh the remaining yarn before I start and then after the 12 row repeat to get how much yarn is required for a repeat and make sure I have that amount for final repeat?

      I hope this helps! I am still working on section 1 right now – I knit slow lol
      feel free to contact me on revelry (SheriB)

      • Hi Sheri – Thanks! That makes sense. In the picture of the mini you can see that there are fewer sets of eyelet repeats in section 4 than on the original pattern. Another question – what size needles are you using? I can’t wait to receive my yarn and start!

        • Hi WilliesMom – I am using a size 5 needle for my JetStream

        • Hi! So sorry for the delay – I couldn’t find this thread to reply to you and I just realized I don’t have the needle size for you lol! I have noted the thread and will check the needle size when I get home after work today!

  • Thanks for the alternating tip, brilliant and I’m sure I would never have thought of it!

    After much vacillating and hand-wringing over color, I picked Rustle and ordered it before I got out of bed yesterday! I’m looking forward to casting on. 🙂

  • The two tail long tail cast on is genius! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I LOVE Churchmouse Yarns &N Tea, and just returned to NOLA from there, within the week. I bought some Rowan Kidsilk Haze to do their Polka Dot Scarf pattern.
    Long live MDK and Bainbridge Island!!!!

  • Any thoughts about knitting an extra small version of the Shakerag Top? I am knitting it for my petite daughter.

  • Ha! Please say hi to Melanie for me…..Her dad (Howie, or Mr.Falick), and my dad (Charlie or Mr.Grun), once made spice racks together for Dean and Deluca!

  • I’m very interested in this linen-cashmere thing, as I have (finally!) reached the point of having to make a decision about whether to blend my homegrown cashmere at the mill OR have it spun as a single-fiber yarn. Have been pondering various wooly options; had not even considered linen.
    Also, please tell me about your coat. It looks very much like my coat. The one that I do not yet own. Thank you.

    • This coat is fine for citified me, but it does not have big enough pockets for you. The search must continue…

      • I was fooled by the appearance of large pockets!! Sigh. Onward!

      • Was gonna ask the same thing … lovely coat … I think @statethelabel there’s something like it … or one could make the Haremere from @merchant&mills … juss’ sayin’ … we all have so much time on our hands … #memademay!!!

    • Ha! …the one that I do not yet own.

  • I’m so glad that you made it to our little cool, rain-soaked corner of the world! (OK, so it’s a big corner. Bainbridge Island being a 6 hour drive from my home in South Beach, OR) I’m also glad that the “knitting is strong” and that you had a good time. Finally, your current story of the before and after properties of Sylph almost has me convinced to try it, despite a recent long overdue craft room reorganization, which revealed that I have much more yarn than I thought. I found that I not only have Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy for my lifetime, but maybe a few other knitters as well! I foresee blankets in my future…

  • Can’t read the post due to annoying”subscribe now” popup. I am a subscriber! Last time I complained about this, I was reminded gently to just enter my email. Have done so, popup tells me that my email is already subscribed, but continues to popup, and block me from reading the column. Can’t scroll away, can’t close the popup.

    • Try zooming out to 90% or even 80%. That way you can see the entire pop-up and find the X to close it. I have this problem sometimes because these days my eyes need a bigger font so my default is set to 110%. My quick way to zoom (out or in) is using the scroll wheel on my mouse while pressing Ctrl.

  • My friend Anne from St Paul was there with you. I can hardly wait to hear the tales.

    • What happens at IslandWood stays at IslandWood.

  • Madame … that was so ultimately sneaky to bring along the JETSTREAM … made me so happy as I read along on the post … almost a bit like having come along without even knowing it! Yup … gotta show the peoples the worthiness of SYLPH and making things that are useful and worth the time put into them and the longlasting thereafter. Do kiss sweet little Olive on the nose for me!

    • I’ve worn it so much and it still looks like new! Definitely saving my Sylph leftovers to make another one.

  • I recently learned another cool thing about the two-tail cast-on: If you cast on with two colors of yarn, and drape the contrast color over your thumb, you get a neat line of trim on the edge of your garment. I now want to do this on everything. h/t Lilia Hat pattern.

  • I want to make the Jet Stream scarf with Sylph. I am having a hard time determining the color I want. On the order page I can see the large beautiful pictures of the color choices but that doesn’t tell me the name of the color. And it’s hard to figure the color in the small order squares. For the colors in the picture of the grouping of grays and turquoise I’d like to know the 3 bottom colors in the photo. I want Swirl color and two gray shades with that. What would you suggest?

  • So glad you had fun in the PacNW….its my mossy home, and I love it!

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